Youth Gain Skills to Ensure Employment
For the second year in a row, millions of students around the world face uncertainty about their studies—and parents and teachers alike worry about the ongoing negative impacts of another disrupted school year. Not so in Samoa, where our Salesian missionaries continue to educate some of the country’s most disadvantaged youth.
“Remarkably, thanks to strict protocols, there have only been a few documented cases of COVID-19 in Samoa,” explains Father Gus Baek, director of Salesian Missions. “And we’re thrilled to see the progress that students enrolled in our training programs are making, thanks to their enthusiasm for learning and the benefit of good public health.”
Many of these students need every advantage they can get, and our Salesian missionaries are committed to supporting them. Although Samoa enjoys a relatively strong economy, and demonstrates a commitment to social development, a significant number of rural residents still struggle with the negative effects of wealth inequality. This includes the lack of livable-wage employment opportunities as well as gender-based job discrimination. At the Don Bosco Technical Center in Alafua, missionaries offer subsidized or free education to village youth whose families otherwise could not afford to send their children to school.
“These educational opportunities are especially important for students who had previously been excluded from traditional school settings,” says Fr. Gus. “Without a second chance, these young men and women would have a hard time escaping poverty.”
The Don Bosco Technical Center first opened in 1989 to prepare young men ages 16-22 for jobs in various technical fields. In 2020, the Center welcomed its first class of young women and together, students can train in a variety of areas including carpentry, welding, sheet metal fabrication, auto mechanics, sewing and more. Notably, all courses include both classroom learning and a hands-on work-study experience, which school administrators recently extended from two weeks to four. And the results have been remarkable! Four students impressed the Samoan Water Authority with their knowledge and dedication that they immediately received employment offers.
“These are exactly the kinds of tangible outcomes that we love to see,” says Fr. Gus, “because they demonstrate that practical education, tailored for local needs, really does move the needle toward increased economic opportunities for youth. In turn, this drives a broader development that can help lift entire communities out of poverty.”
The importance of practical education has been backed by research conducted by the Samoan Qualification Authority, which also found that the Don Bosco Technical Center produces the highest number of graduates who successfully go on to work in the private sector. Amid a global pandemic, and in a country where many youth struggle to find jobs which can support them, this is indeed a significant achievement.
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